Recycling Super Heroes

Calgary Recycling

Calgary Recycling – The Big Picture

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You may have heard about the multi-family recycling bylaw that took effect February 1, 2016 or the commercial recycling bylaw coming into effect on November 1, 2016 and thought “why are they doing this?”. Both of these new bylaws are actually part of a much larger plan for the City of Calgary to get closer to zero waste.

The Big Picture

Back in 2007 the City Council initiated a strategy to divert 80% of the city’s waste by the year 2020. The strategy included special tactics such as the blue cart program that rolled out in 2009 and the green cart (organics) program which was meant to roll out in 2010 but will actually come to pass mid-2017. Further tactics included more rules for garbage disposal, educating the citizens, and implementing “waste-to-energy” technology. In 2015 the strategy was revisited and a new target of 70% waste diversion by 2025 was set.

The Road to Zero

The goal of 70% waste diversion is actually an average of individual targets that were set for the four main segments of wasters:

  1. Single-Family Residential – 70% waste diversion
  2. Multi-Family Residential – 65% waste diversion
  3. Business & Organizations – 75% waste diversion
  4. Construction & Demolition – 40% waste diversion

Now you can see where the new bylaws come into play. The requirement for multi-family residential buildings and businesses and organizations to implement recycling programs this year is a crucial tactic that will increase the waste diversion in those two segments.

What Next?

We know about the single-family organics recycling “green bin” program that will be rolling out within the next couple years, but what other tactics will Calgary use to reach their goal? The official word from the city is:

“Once all the recycling and diversion programs are in place and all efforts to reduce, reuse and recycle have been explored, we plan to revisit the possibility of using waste-to-energy technology to deal with any left-over materials” (source: Leading Calgary To Zero Waste)

So the waste-to-energy idea from back in 2007 is still valid, we just need a viable option to become available.

Way To Go!

Calgary is very conscious of the environment and the impact we can have by diverting our waste. It is great to have leaders who care. Way to go Calgary for being a Recycling rising star!

Gruman's Catering and Delicatessen

Is 100% Waste Diversion Really Possible?

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At first the idea of diverting 100% of waste may sound like a quest for the Holy Grail, but with some planning and enthusiasm it is a real possibility. We talked with Judy Rafuse, a true recycling superstar, from Grumans Catering and Delicatessen about what they have done to become 100% recyclable. It comes down to three main principles. Check out how they’ve taken their recycling to the next level:

Use Recyclable Materials

What is a recycling program without recyclable materials? In most cases non-recyclable materials can be substituted for something that can be recycled. This is where some of the planning comes in. Gruman’s uses 100% recyclable materials including the following:

  • Food Containers (Plates, Clamshells, Soup Bowls & Lids, Boxes)
  • Cutlery
  • Straws
  • Portion Cups/Lids
  • Take-Home Deli Containers & Lids
  • Napkins/Paper Towels
  • Foil Roasters
  • Paper Bags
  • Compostable Garbage Bags
  • Aluminum Foil


Collecting The Recyclables

When looking at collection it is important to establish an ideal location for recycling bins. There should be enough bins to keep up with the needs of the organization. There are also different bins for different types of materials. Gruman’s created separate bins for mixed recycling, organic materials, and other waste.


When we asked Judy what makes Gruman’s 100% recyclable this is what she had to say:

“The biggest part is education.  Recycling is seen as a secondary duty in most businesses and is usually avoided based on time and expense because of the initial product/program investment and ensuring items are properly cleaned and sorted.  We believe in simplifying the process, by initially having all recyclable materials and bins available on site.  With proper education and a system in place, the recycling effort becomes easier for all staff.  If you make it easy for the staff, they will be onboard with the program.  It starts at the top.”

We agree with Judy 100%. A recycling program is most effective when everyone within an organization is onboard. Making everyone aware of the program is a must. Some enthusiasm and a little effort to spread the word will have a huge impact on the effectiveness of your program.

Follow The Leader

Gruman’s Catering and Delicatessen is 100% recyclable at their Symons Valley Ranch location and within their catering division. They are also well on their way to 100% recyclable at their restaurant in downtown Calgary. Way to go Judy and Gruman’s for proving that it can be done!

Symons Valley Ranch

Symons Valley Ranch

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Symons Valley Ranch

The work we are doing with the Symons Valley Farmers Market has been very exciting. Here is a business that is on track to divert 85% of their waste from the landfills by the end of the year. If that isn’t enough, they will also be saving over $10,000 each year (that is enough to buy like… 12 iPads) with some simple changes to their waste management programs. Here is how it all started:

The Waste Audit

We love what we do so much that we are willing to dig through your garbage to find little treasures that can be recycled instead of sent to the landfills. We call it a “waste audit”. For Symons Valley Ranch we sorted through an entire day’s worth of garbage and set aside everything that could be recycled. We found that 38% of waste was being recycled… not bad. We also found that there was potential to recycle up to 88% of their waste. Wow, who knew so much could be recycled (we secretly knew the whole time)? Here are the results of their waste audit:

  • Mixed Recycling Items Found= 58%
  • Organic Material Found = 30%
  • Actual Garbage Found = 12%
Waste Audit

Tracey, the garbage expert!

Setting Goals

With a better idea of their potential to reduce waste, the Farmer’s Market set some serious goals. By summer 2016 the goal is to recycle 75% of waste (huge recycling skills!). The goal for the end of the year is to be recycling 85% of waste (recycling super-heroes!). A customized program with mixed recycling and organic waste bins was initiated to help each piece of waste end up in the right place. They are well on their way to achieving their goals!

Cost Savings

Before March, 2016 Symons Valley Farmers Market was spending about $2,500 each month on garbage and cardboard removal. With a full-service recycling program in place their garbage removal expenses dropped to $1,000. The cost of the recycling program is roughly $600, which means that they are already saving somewhere around $900 each month. That is where the annual savings of $10,000 is coming from (enough to buy a Nissan Micra…).

Environment Savings

One of the technical key-indicator terms in the recycling industry is “Waste Diversion Rate”. It is the percentage of waste that is being recycled and “diverted” away from the landfills. The Farmers Market started at 38% and is well on their way to 75% by summertime and 85% by the end of the year. They have taken control of their environmental impact to become recycling super-heroes. Awesome job guys!